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Big Story

It’s Not Same-Sex Marriage Anymore. It’s Just Marriage.

It's a big day in the USA. gay marriage. marriage equality. same-sex marriage. (nathanmac87 / Flickr)

It's a big day in the USA. (nathanmac87 / Flickr)

Thanks to the Supreme Court, June 26, 2015 will go down in American history. Why's that? The Supreme Court of the United States (AKA SCOTUS) ruled on a case regarding same-sex marriage rights this morning. Their decision? It's legal. In every single state in this country. Boom.

Since your grandkids will be asking you about this moment someday, here's what you need to know.

So, what really happened?

SCOTUS issued a decision on the Obergefell v. Hodges case from Ohio. The case boiled down to whether a state that didn't allow same-sex marriage had to recognize a same-sex couple who were legally married in another state.

James Obergefell and John Arthur were together for 22 years and legally married in Maryland after the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned by SCOTUS in 2013.

Sadly, Arthur died shortly after and things got a bit messy. James wanted to be recognized on the death certificate as a surviving spouse in the state of Ohio, where same-sex marriage wasn't legal. A messy legal battle ensued, and the case eventually landed in front of the Supreme Court.

Today's decision by SCOTUS

In Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that same-sex marriage has to be recognized by all 50 states. They said it was unconstitutional to ban same-sex marriage because doing so violates liberties of Americans. This means same-sex marriage is effectively legal across the country.

SCOTUS also ruled that states have to recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state:

The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.

The five justices who decided same-sex marriage should be legal recognized unequal rights between same- and oppositely-sexed couples. From where they're sitting, the denial of this equality is a majorly big deal:

It is now clear that the challenged laws burden the liberty of same-sex couples, and it must be further acknowledged that they abridge central precepts of equality. Here the marriage laws enforced by the respondents are in essence unequal: same-sex couples are denied all the benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right. Especially against a long history of disapproval of their relationships, this denial to same-sex couples of the right to marry works a grave and continuing harm. The imposition of this disability on gays and lesbians serves to disrespect and subordinate them.

The decision ended with a bold, historic statement on the rights of same-sex couples of America:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embod- ies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people be- come something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be con- demned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

And with that, same-sex marriage is legal across America.

What's the basis of the SCOTUS decision?

It all boils down to the equal protection clause.

Tucked into the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution, the equal protection clause goes a little like this:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

SCOTUS's reasoning, then, is that when states denied same-sex couples marriage rights, it was a deprivation of people's equal rights.

These considerations lead to the conclusion that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.

But what about the dissents?

The majority opinion (AKA the decision) was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy on behalf of the five votes for same-sex marriage right. While the dissenting side always represents itself, in an unusual move, all four of the opposing voters also shared their thoughts.

Justice Antonin Scalia said the decision to accept same-sex marriage is a "threat to American democracy."

Justice John Roberts said the Constitution (where the 14th Amendment hangs out) has nothing to do with how special marriage is, but also that folks should celebrate.

Justice Samuel Anthony Alito agreed that this issue has nothing to do with the Constitution.

Justice Clarence Thomas commented on dignity in his dissent, saying the government can't take away people's dignity with anti same-sex marriage laws in states.

What's the basis of the dissent?

Basically, the four dissenters think the majority opinion is a threat against state's rights.

Each in their own way, they argued that this ruling does not allow states to form their own opinions regarding same-sex marriage, and because of this, hurts states' rights to issue their own laws.

Justice Scalia said he wanted to make a separate statement "to call attention to this Court's threat to American democracy."

Justice Alito agreed with Scalia and Thomas and said this ruling is a violation of SCOTUS' authority:

Even enthusiastic supporters of same-sex marriage should worry about the scope of the power that today's majority claims. Today's decision shows that decades of attempts to restrain this Court's abuse of its authority have failed.

But what do politicians think?

Almost immediately after the decision was issued, Obama called Obergefell and hopped on Twitter to join the celebrating.

The POTUS also addressed the nation about the historic SCOTUS decision, saying, "Love is love."

Unsurprisingly, presidential hopefuls from both political parties made comments on the ruling.

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton changed her avatar and Twitter background to reflect support for the decision.

Presidential candidate Martin O'Malley did the same thing with his Twitter profile and shared support.

Then Bernie Sanders joined in the wave of support.

Over on the Republican side, the newest presidential candidate, Bobby Jindal, tweeted about religious liberty.

Rick Santorum commented on the validity of the opinion by the Supreme Court Justices, saying they are "unelected Justices."

And Mike Huckabee says SCOTUS played God. Er.

Jeb Bush issued a statement saying SCOTUS "should have left it with the states."

Carly Fiorina also sided with the SCOTUS dissents, saying this ruling hurt state's rights and religious liberty.

As for Rick Perry, he also argued that the issue should have been the decisions of the states.

What about Donald Trump? Well, he blamed it on George W. Bush. (And maybe Jeb.)

And what about the rest of the nation?

People are reacting with happiness, elation, and excitement. It is a huge moment in history for marriage rights and LGBTQ people across America. #LoveWins and "Go America" immediately began trending on Twitter.

There's definitely some opposition, too, though.

Which leaves us with one question: What do you think about this historic moment?

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It’s Not Same-Sex Marriage Anymore. It’s Just Marriage.

Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a freelance international news reporter, having contributed to The Atlantic online and Mic. He's worked at CNNMoney, the New York Daily News, and Voice of America. Patrick loves tweeting, reading, and grabbing coffee in either New York or Washington D.C. Tweet anything on politics or world conflict to him! Follow: @patrickdehahn.

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